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The Student meets Tom Ely-Corbett

Tom Ely-Corbett, a second-year Biological Sciences student running to be the next Edinburgh University Students’ Association President, spoke to The Student via email about his campaign and key policies. 

Commenting on the 95 per cent increase in candidates for Sabbatical Officer positions from last year, he stated “I believe the reason for the surge in interest in applying to represent our student body is the communal feeling of dissatisfaction with the university. 

“Of course, this isn’t exclusive to this year, however, now more than ever have students felt cheated and disenfranchised with an institution that expects so much of them. 

“As students, all we expect is to get treated equally and receive the high quality of teaching that we pay for and signed up for.” 

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The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically altered the election process this year, with campaigning conducted largely online and Q & A sessions taking place virtually. 

“Campaigning online is very stressful but a lot of fun! 

“The support from friends, family and even those I have never met endorsing me has been overwhelming! 

“Due to restrictions, I have done my best to stay in 1-on-1 contact with our student population via Instagram, but I can’t wait to put my phone down after 24/7 use!”

  The pandemic has also had a severe economic impact on the university, with the students’ association facing major financial losses. 

“Financial recovery is vital for students and the university alike.” Ely-Corbett continued. 

“If elected, I look to work alongside the individual financial departments of EUSA and the university to understand how the best can be achieved for students without compromising services…I would champion student and university-led campaigns advocating for increased funding toward Scottish universities.” 

Two of the focal points of his campaign are mental health support for university students and transport services available for those travelling to different campuses. 

‘‘Beyond the Student Counselling Service, which has reconstructed itself brilliantly during the pandemic, students need proactive personal tutors who reach out to students regularly to promote the services available. 

“A key problem is that there are simply too many students for the number of counsellors – this needs to change. 

“I would work to implement vital ‘mental health tips’ and contacts into the University platforms…so that our students know there is someone to call if they’re struggling.”

On the subject of transport, he also has many ideas.

“In our chaotic university environment, an affordable, reliable transport system is vital to supporting a busy, diverse Edinburgh.

“However, as society is faced with the necessity for greener transport solutions, offering regular bus services (such as the King’s Building shuttle bus) reduces not only our impact upon the environment but the costs incurred for students. 

“…cycling is one of the fastest and most enjoyable methods for traversing our campuses, so I would look to implement this by collaborating with Edinburgh’s council and our university to take up the cost of the scheme…Tying each bike to a student’s ID when they go to use it will act against misuse. 

“For our disabled students, some of whom may not be able to make use of the Just Eat bikes, I hope to streamline partnership between the universities ‘Student Disabilities Service’ and ‘Transport for Edinburgh’ to offer a bus pass that provides free services, so students can access every part of Edinburgh without exclusion.  

“…student nurses and medics were expected as part of ‘clinical placements’ to support during the pandemic. 

“As such clinical experience is imperative to gaining qualifications, students were ‘checkmated’ into working for free. 

“The least the university can do is compensate the students with a free bus service to Easter Bush and back to Bristo Square.”

  When asked which aspects of the Edinburgh University system should be prioritised for change, Ely-Corbett responded:

“MyEd and Learn are likely to be heavily used going into next year…they could do with some significant changes.

“A new assignment tracker should be placed into Learn that links with outlook and MyEd to notify us of outstanding work – when it is due and quick links to submission boxes.

“A new portal [should be added] to allow us to monitor the way Edinburgh University is working to protect our environment, by tracking their carbon use, their climate solutions and ways they plan to fulfil their target of being ‘Zero by 2040’.

“Voting polls and mental health support pages should be integrated into the main MyEd dashboard so that students can take part in student democracy easier and stay up to date with changes that affect them.”

  Finally, Ely-Corbett outlined the main reasons why students should vote for him.

“My policies encapsulate all major elements of university life, especially those outside of the classroom. 

“Improving our university experience so that students feel safe, happy and motivated to study are attributes that I believe are lacking at Edinburgh.

“Over the past year, it has been disheartening to see our student population walked over by the university when we are paying customers to this institution. 

“As a champion of us underdogs, I will work to bring back the balance in our favour…”

“I am the youngest candidate and still have two years at Edinburgh, so the policies that I hope to implement will affect me as much as you, so there is, to be honest, a personal incentive to making the university as good as it can possibly be.”

He added: “A key takeaway from this short election period has been the overwhelming grit and spirit that all the candidates, both for Sabbatical and Representative positions, have put into their campaigns.” 

“Despite being in a pandemic, and juggling university work already – my fellow candidates have produced intuitive, interesting and informative campaigns which motivate students to get involved in changing our university.

“I believe in what I will implement and hence I truly hope that whoever becomes our Sabbatical Officers next year will invoke what students really need next year.”

Image: via eusa.ed.ac.uk